The Favor

The Favor
by VoyWriter

Paramount was given a land grant to StarTrek and mineral rights to the characters
– Janeway, Chakotay, et all and all associated StarTrek business – but despite
manifest destiny, we persevere. There is no final frontier.

Please send all feedback to VoyWriter@aol.com

Kathryn Janeway was surprised to find Chakotay waiting in the hall when she
rounded the corridor to Samantha Wildman’s quarters. The Ensign had asked for a
half hour of Janeway’s time to discuss something important. Apparently she had
wanted Voyager’s First Officer as well as Captain to be present.

“Commander,” Janeway nodded a greeting to Chakotay.

“Captain…” He was clearly as surprised as by her presence as she was by his.

“Did Samantha give you any indication as to what this is all about?” Janeway
wondered.

Chakotay shook his head. “Not a clue,” he told her. “I rang for her already. It
sounded like she said just a minute, but the screaming was pretty loud. I think she
had her hands full with our youngest crew member,” he grinned.

At that moment a harried looking Samantha Wildman appeared in the opening
doorway. The baby was still screaming and Samantha shifted her from arm to
arm, patting her back, but to no avail.

“Perhaps we should come back, Samantha,” Janeway suggested loudly.

“No. Please. Come in. I know how busy your schedules are. She’ll calm down in a
minute or two. Samantha managed to usher them in between the screams.

Janeway and Chakotay sat on either end of the couch while Samantha took the
chair opposite, the baby on her knee.

“She’s getting her tongue scales,” Samantha apologized, rubbing her hand on the
baby’s back in an effort to soothe her. “It happens very early with Ktarins, well
before her teeth or roof crest,” she explained, “and it’s quite painful.”

“Have you tried a gel pack – not quite frozen?” Chakotay suggested, reaching out
to brush a finger along the baby’s cheek.

Janeway gave him a look that might have been surprise or amusement.

“Nothing the Doctor gave us worked, but Kes suggested the same thing,”
Wildman sighed. “I guess it’s worth a try. If you wouldn’t mind waiting, maybe I
could get her calmed down and we might be able to have some quiet.”

As Wildman left for the nursery with her daughter, Janeway raised a quizzical
eyebrow at her First Officer. “Just a little something you picked up in the Maquis,
Commander?” she asked dryly.

“The galaxy is full of children, Captain,” was his soft unrevealing reply.

Janeway caught her breath at the unexpected response, struck yet again by how
much she had to learn about this man. He was not a simple read – more than the
sum of his parts.

She had breached some of his mystery during their stay on New Earth, but clearly
there was more to learn.

“It worked almost immediately,” a grateful Wildman announced as she returned
to the room alone. “I put her down for a nap.”

She retook the chair opposite the couch and folding her hands nervously.

“I want to thank you for coming,” Samantha began. “And I’ll try not to take too
much of your time.”

“Take whatever time you need Samantha,” Janeway offered graciously.

“What I have to ask you is very important – important to me,” she said. “You may
have heard that I’ve set a date for the christening and decided on a ceremony…”

“And you’d like me to officiate,” Janeway realized. “Of course, I’d be…”

“No. Well. That’s not it. Tuvok is going to perform the ceremony.”

“Tuvok,” Janeway repeated. “Fine. Well, then?”

Thus far Chakotay had said little. “Is there some other ceremony or tradition
practiced by your people or the Ktarins that you would like us to help with?” he
wondered.

Samantha took a deep breath. “What I’d like…What I’m trying to ask – is I would
like for you to be my daughter’s godparents. Would you consider it?”

Janeway sat in surprised silence. Chakotay spoke first, leaning forward to take
Samantha’s hands in his own.

“This is an important decision, Samantha, and a great honor” he said softly. “I
know you have close friends here on Voyager…”

She nodded. “It’s true, Commander, there are some of the crew I’m very close to,
but they’re not who I’m choosing. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I think the
two of you could do the best job raising my daughter if the days comes when I
can’t.”

“Tell us why, Samantha,” Janeway asked gently. “I mean there must be couples…”
she stopped, glancing pointedly at Chakotay.

“There are several couples who would love her and raise her as their own,”
Samantha admitted. “But I don’t want her raised as someone else’s child. I want
her raised as mine – as human and Ktarin.”

She rose and knelt before Chakotay. “Commander, there may not be anyone else
on this ship who understands the importance of heritage and traditions the way
you do. That’s why I’m asking you.”

“And Captain…” Samantha edged onto the couch beside Janeway. “There’s no one
who will fight more fiercely to do what’s good and right for her – that’s why I’m
asking you.”

Wildman stood and faced them both. Janeway was visibly touched, her eyes moist
and fluid. Chakotay’s expression was both tender and protective. It was exactly
the reaction Samantha had hoped for – anything less would have caused her to
question her decision.

“I know this is a surprise – maybe even a shock -” Samantha said. “I don’t expect
an answer right now. What I would like is for you to think about it, discuss it, and
then tell me your answer. If either of you feels uncomfortable, or if it’s too much
of a burden, I’ll understand and I’ll find another way, but I hope you will accept,
and that you’ll agree to raise her together if anything should happen to me.”

Janeway glanced from Chakotay to Wildman. “When do you want our answer,
Samantha?” she asked quietly.

“The christening is in three days. I know I’m not giving you much time, but if you
could tell me by tomorrow evening, it would give me enough time to make other
arrangements if you say no.”

Janeway nodded. “We’ll have an answer for you by tomorrow night.”
“Commander?” she looked questioningly at Chakotay.

“Tomorrow night will be fine, Captain. Samantha.”

Both Captain and First Officer rose and took their leave, walking in silence to the
turbolift, even this decision a burden, let alone should they actually have to take
on the responsibility for the rearing of a child.

As the lift started moving, Janeway finally spoke. “Well, Commander?”

“I don’t think this can be decided in a turbolift,” he replied.

“Agreed,” Janeway said. “I suggest you come to my quarters when our shift is
over. We can at least have some discussion over dinner and that will give us the
night to consider it and tomorrow if we need to talk about it further.”

Chakotay nodded. “Fine.” And then he said. “You know it is a great honor…”

Janeway grinned. “Surprised the hell out of me, too, Commander.”

The door chime sounded some twenty minutes after shift’s end. Janeway had used
the time to change from her uniform to a comfortable tunic and tights. When
Chakotay entered she saw he had off duty clothes on as well – loose pants and a
belted shirt, cuffs rolled up and the neck open.

“Come in, Commander,” Janeway called, pulling two steaming plates from a
stasis tray Neelix had left. “I hope you don’t mind vegetable stir fry. I promised
Neelix I’d be his guinea pig.”

Chakotay grinned. “There’s not much even Neelix can do to vegetables” he said
optimistically.

They both found out how wrong that assumption was. Quansi fruit and vegetables
definitely did not mix. “Soup and sandwiches from the replicator?” Janeway
suggested as they tactfully dumped Neelix’s feast down the recycling bin.

“Soup is fine,” Chakotay told her.

“Good. That’s enough for me, too,” she said, calling up a creamy cheese vegetable
soup that was as close to her mother’s recipe as she could remember.

“So how did you know that little trick with the gel pack?” Janeway asked when
they were finally settled at the small table near her desk, soup before them.

Chakotay blushed. Janeway found it charming.

“Babysitting,” he revealed. “My father insisted I learn how to care for the little
ones – that we all learn. It was considered a community responsibility,” he
remembered, “and I told my father that men didn’t take care of children.” A rueful
smile tipped his lips.

Janeway nearly choked on her soup. “From what you’ve told me about him, I can
just imagine his response. Was he furious?”

“Disappointed is more like it. It was a damned stupid thing to say, but I really felt
that way at the time.”

“What did he say?”

“He said I needed to understand there is no pleasure without responsibility.” A
faint blush rose again.

“Sound advice,” Janeway nodded approvingly.

“Not what a very contrary fourteen year-old boy with raging hormones wants to
hear,” Chakotay laughed, “but yes, sound advice. I agree. And the lesson caring
for the little ones was even more valuable,” he added.

“Really? Even at 14?” Surprise registered in her voice.

“Actually, I came to consider my time caring for them to be very important,”
Chakotay told her.

“In what way?” Janeway asked, frankly curious. She hadn’t considered children
herself – her career was demanding and fulfilling – but somehow she could see
Chakotay with children of his own – gentle and nurturing, teasing and comforting.
It was a surprisingly vivid vision and left her feeling oddly isolated.

“To be honest,” Chakotay was saying, “before that time I was a fairly selfish
child. I saw the world only from my own view.”

“Don’t you think that’s natural for children – to be somewhat myopic?” Janeway
interjected.

“I think I was more self-involved than most,” he said frankly. “That’s one reason
my father struggled so hard to make me understand the traditions and heritage of
my people.”

“To give you perspective.”

“Yes. He said once he wanted me to understand I wasn’t the only star in the sky.
There’s actually a story that goes with that.”

He flashed a quick grin. She had enjoyed his stories on New Earth. It had become
something of a ritual. He would generally cook dinner. They would eat together,
usually outside, and clean up and then he would tell her a story. It was often the
first and only time of the day when both weren’t busy with camp duties or off to
their own pursuits.

Janeway’s eyes widened in pleasure at the memories as well. Those evenings had
been so idyllic, she almost found it hard to believe it had been her life, rather than
some fantasy. The reality of it faded more as time passed and she welcomed the
chance to recapture it, if only for an evening – and to learn more about the
complex man before her.

“I’ve missed your stories,” she told Chakotay softly. “If you’re finished, I suggest
we move to more comfortable chairs. It’s been a long day.”

In a faint imitation of earlier days, they cleared the dishes and settled in her
informal sitting room, the slashing viewport window commanding a view of
space beyond.

Janeway took one end of the couch, tucking her feet up reflexively, settling back
against the cushions. Chakotay sat on the floor, cross-legged, leaning against the
coffee table so he could see her as he spoke.

“Ready?” he asked.

She nodded and closed her eyes to listen, imagining them back on New Earth,
soft winds rustling the trees, the freshness of the forest scenting the air,
Chakotay’s soft tones warming the air.

“Legends say,” he began in his calm, soothing voice, that mother earth created the
stars to hold the sky in place at night, when the weight of darkness threatened to
crash it down around us.

She had made the clouds, too, but they could not bear the burden alone in the
dark and so the stars joined them.

Each star is like a pole in a teepee, or a beam in a house, or,” he smiled at her, “a
pin in a coil of hair, holding the sky in place. And all the stars must equally bear
the burden lest one bit of the sky begin to tremble from some weak point. And all
must know that none is more important than another for all the sky must be borne
up not just a single point.

Some of the stars joined to make a web that was stronger than each by itself and
these became our constellations. Sometimes a star will fail, because it cannot
bear the burden alone, and it will fall back to mother earth or lose it’s sparkle and
dim and fade.

That the stars might shine at all in the sky was a gift from mother earth so all
would recognize their efforts and sacrifice. And in the day, they are permitted to
rest so they can gather their strength for the burden each night.

For many millennia, the stars all worked in concert to keep the sky in place. And
then there came a time when one star decided that he should shine as a sun,
brighter and bigger than any star in the sky, and so he abandoned his task, filled
with self-importance. And when he left, the sky trembled and broke from his
absence and the shards would have fallen to earth had the clouds not been there to
catch them.

But this willful act angered the clouds and so even today they will hurl these
shards to earth as bolts of light, charged with their fury.”

Janeway smiled softly. He had a wonderful way with words and imagery and his
voice was a warm blanket against the cold world.

She uncurled her legs and reached out to touch his sleeve. “That was lovely.
Thank you.”

He grinned. “It was told to me as a lesson of what might happen should I fail to
control my willful pride and selfish ways. It was a fable about arrogance and the
importance of community and the sharing of burdens.”

Janeway shook her head – selfish was not a word she would use to describe
Chakotay. Proud, yes. But not arrogant nor selfish. She told him so.

“I’m a different person now, Kathryn,” he said slipping easily into the comfortable
relationship they had enjoyed on New Earth, using her first name unconsciously.

She still liked the sound of it, hearing it, being Kathryn not Captain for a while.

“What changed you?” she asked.

“Other than life itself?” he grinned and then his expression grew serious. “I
learned that I’m not the only star in the sky,” he said intently. “And looking back, I
realize I learned some of that from those children my father insisted I care for.
Their dependence forced me to see beyond myself.”

“And after that. Did it cause you to want children of your own?”

“It’s a tremendous responsibility,” he said frankly. “It scared the hell out of me
when Seska said her baby was mine.”

Janeway nodded. “We tend to organize our lives,” she said thoughtfully,” and they
become so directed that there’s not room or time for anything beyond what we’ve
planned. A child-” or a lover, she thought “-threatens to disrupt all that careful
planning.”

“I was angry at Seska for what she had done – for what she had stolen from me. I
didn’t feel ready to take on a child I hadn’t even participated in making,” he said.
“I wanted it to be my own choice – who and when – that free will is what I really
thought she took from me. But I realized that was my own burden and it wasn’t
fair to project it on the child.”

“You never told me how you came to the decision to go after the baby,” Janeway
said, rising and walking to the counter where a thermos held hot tea. She offered
him a mug and he started to get up to accept it.

“Stay,” she motioned him back. “You look comfortable. Besides, I owe you for a
few meals on New Earth. Just a little honey?” she remembered.

He nodding, watching her return with the mug. She looked utterly relaxed, yet
exuded life and strength and vibrancy that both charmed and seduced him.

His expression still held that wonder when she handed him the mug of tea and the
intensity of it caught them both off guard a moment.

“Thank you<" he said finally. "The tea." She busied herself stirring the honey into her mug. She was still reeling from the raw emotion in his gaze. It made her throat ache with unfulfilled promise. She drew herself in, emotionally and physically. "You were going to tell me about your decision to go after Seska's baby." He looked at her frankly for another minute and then averted his eyes, glancing down at his own tea. Whatever was happening between them had to be her prerogative, her initiative - and she was simply not ready. He called on reserves of patience that went as deep as his passion and when he looked up at her again, he gaze was calm and steady and as impersonal as he could manage. He picked up the thread of the story and began to answer her question. "After you and I talked about rescuing the child, I returned to my quarters and contacted my spirit guide and through my guide, my father." "You asked his advice?" "Actually, I vented my frustrations on him," Chakotay replied dryly, stretching and straightening his legs. "And as usual, he presented a different perspective - one that caused me to consider my real objections. I found there was still a selfishness within me." "You were rejecting the baby because it hadn't happened according to your terms." He nodded. "Because the conditions weren't of my choosing - not the mother, not the timing, not the circumstances - and I didn't know if I could get by that." "But you did." "I remembered I was not the only star in the sky," he smiled softly. "Not the brightest. Not the most important. Not the first to shoulder a burden. And I remembered I would not be alone. You had already offered your support. It meant a great deal. A constellation is stronger than a single star." "It was the right decision," she said with certainty. "It almost got us all killed," he countered. "It still balances," she insisted. "Samantha was wise in her choice of you as godparent, you know. You will be a fierce advocate." "And you will keep her grounded in tradition and wisdom," Janeway told him firmly. "But I'm still concerned about the actual obligation should something happen to Samantha. She's asking us to raise the baby together," Janeway said pointedly. "Did you plan to have children?" he wondered, rising to stretch his legs and refill their tea. "No," she said quietly. "I never saw motherhood as my destiny as many of my friends did. It just wasn't part of my expectations." "You would have a lot to offer." "Would I?" It wasn't insecurity that spoke, simply surprise. He laughed at her astonished tone and set his tea aside before crossing to crouch before her. He took her hands in his. "Kathryn you are warm, capable, intelligent - who better as a role model for a child?" "You," she said, the admission surprising them both. He was silent a moment. "I would like children, Kathryn," he told her. "In time. With a woman who wanted to share that part of her life, take on that responsibility with me, share that joy." With you, Kathryn, he added silently, unaware of what his eyes revealed. She reached up and gently touched his cheek. "I think we both need to sleep on this. Samantha doesn't need her answer until tomorrow night. We can talk again tomorrow." He was still holding her hand. He set it gently back in her lap and rose. "Goodnight, Kathryn." "Goodnight, Chakotay." Sleep found Kathryn uneasily that night with dreams of dark eyed sons and daughters and their father just beyond her vision. She held Samantha's baby in her arms and it became her. And when she awoke empty handed, her arms ached for the loss. She spent the day half focused on duty, the dream haunting her. When she met Chakotay after their shift, this time in her ready room to talk, she had decided to tell him about the vision. Confronted with him there before her, she changed her mind. It was too private, too suggestive, too misleading. "Samantha expects us in a half an hour," she said. "We need to make a decision." "I'd like to do it," Chakotay said, sitting casually at his usual spot at the conference table. "We will become ship of families, a community, if we're out here 70 years," he said. "It's inevitable. I think it's important to recognize that. This is a way of doing so, quite publicly." "And on a more personal level, I would like to have connection to this child - it's our first, Kathryn - Voyager's first." She met his gaze without flinching. "I'm inclined to agree, though I'll still admit it scares the hell out of me." Chakotay smiled softly. "Kathryn. I will help you hold the sky." finis

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